07/31/2012 06:59 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2012

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Networking with Twitter

Many believe effective networking is done face-to-face, building a rapport with someone by looking at them in the eye, leading to a solid connection and foundational trust. But with today's evolution of social media, you can more effectively use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to amass a strong network, both business and personal.

While I've used LinkedIn and Facebook for years, I just started tweeting about a month ago and I've enriched and expanded my network more during that time than in the past year. This period has been filled with experimentation and discovery that leads me to the conclusion that Twitter is a more effective networking tool than LinkedIn and Facebook.

There are seven reasons why I believe that Twitter is a better networking tool.
  1. You don't have to know someone to connect with them. You can follow anyone. It's virtually limitless.
  2. There's flexibility in the connection you're making. It can be one-way: you follow them but they don't follow you; or two-way: you're connected with each other. Either way, you learn.
  3. Twitter forces its members to send very short messages. As Mark Twain realized, writing a short letter takes longer than writing a long one, so the 140-character maximum is perfect for me. Discipline and imagination are required to send engaging, relevant tweets.
  4. There is no better source of real-time news than Twitter. With the constant sharing of news and information, if you're an active Twitter user, there's nothing happening, big or small, that you won't know right away.
  5. Anyone has a chance to become an influencer. You don't have to be a celebrity to make a positive impact or to achieve a large following.
  6. Companies and products can showcase their "personalities" without being perceived as an intrusion.
  7. It takes just 5 minutes to get started.

For a social networking and microblogging site launched barely six years ago, it's impressive that there are more than 400 million tweets each and every day. Twitter's membership ranges from thought leaders to business owners, from inspirational authors to hilarious comedians, from policy makers to teens sharing random thoughts and feelings. Some of my new Twitter friends are fitness enthusiasts who motivate me to keep myself in better shape. Often the content is original, engaging and corky - and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious - and many times is about news sharing, motivational messages, and educational material.

Since I'm a Twitter rookie, I have made a lot of dumb mistakes. And, as my grandmother Sofia used to tease tell me: "Mi'jo, when you learn to shave, try to learn on someone else's face first." I'd like to share with you these five common mistakes, so you can avoid them.

  1. Created an unappealing personal profile. I learned that a brief, catchy profile with a decent picture works well - it may take you several times to get your profile right, but it's worth the effort. You can include a picture of yourself or an item that means something to you.
  2. Broadcasted my intended messages. Few members, if any, took notice. Kim Garst, Forbes Top 50 Social Media influencer, tells us that tweeting is not about broadcasting a message, but having a conversation. If you want to engage your followers speak with them not at them.
  3. Fussed about users who unfollowed me. Members will unfollow at will. Don't take it personal when someone unfollows you.
  4. Didn't interact often with my network. Acknowledging your network's messages compliments the sender and builds a connection. Retweets of any types are always welcomed by the original sender and reflect your receptivity of the message sent. Another way to demonstrate your support is by using the "favorite" button, a similar function than the "like" on Facebook.
  5. Over tweeted. Having an ongoing presence is important, but being over exposed can get you burned. I wouldn't recommend tweeting more than 10 times a day.

Leveraging Twitter will undoubtedly expand and enrich your network. I've met many social media experts, authors, and fitness enthusiasts, all over the world. Edmund Lee, who provides tips on leveraging social media and Kerry Hughes, an engaging fitness enthusiast commuting across two continents, who has motivated me to stay focused on my fitness goals and lead a healthy lifestyle.

My good friend Charles P. Garcia, who is fast approaching 400,000 followers, and ranks in the top 200 worldwide, says: "Twitter is a great way to touch people's hearts daily by sharing your authentic self with them. It's like throwing a pebble in a pond, you never know how far the ripples will go."

If you're interested in expanding your network, you can't go wrong with Twitter. You don't need to be a celebrity to have fun and grow your network with Twitter.